Public Utilities Director Alice Godsey Retiring
After serving 40 years in the public sector improving water quality, Perrysburg’s Director of Public Utilities, Alice Godsey is retiring.
Godsey has spent the past 46 years learning, studying, and working to ensure that the quality of our water is safe. But as a farm girl from Van Wert County, working in civil engineering- a particularly male dominated field- wasn’t easy.
“The entry of women into male-dominated fields was challenging to some men,” she said. “Words and actions were directed at me back then that wouldn’t be tolerated today, when women now have means to redress those wrongs.”
Godsey didn’t let those challenges deter her from pursuing her interests in civil engineering. As the daughter of a nurse who worked outside of the home, which was uncommon at the time, her mother unconsciously laid the groundwork for Godsey to pursue a full-time career. She decided to apply to the University of Toledo and was one of five recipients of a scholarship created to entice more females to enter the College of Engineering.
“I was told that there were only three females in the College of Engineering prior to my freshman year,” Godsey said.
Her first full-time job out of college was with Jones & Henry Engineers for an entry level position.
“I was the first female engineer hired in the firm’s 50-year history,” said Godsey. “For the few males disinclined to accept societal change, my hiring was likely a tough pill to swallow.”
During her time at Jones & Henry, she worked on projects for cities and villages in Ohio and Michigan, including Benton Harbor, Adrian, Lima, Toledo and Defiance. Those projects helped prepare Godsey for her next position as the Sanitary Engineer for the City of Lima.
“I worked there for 16 years under three utilities directors overseeing the wastewater treatment plant and sewer design and construction projects, expanding the industrial pretreatment program, writing water and sewer rate studies, and working with like-minded cities and sewer districts to revise onerous state and federal environmental mandates,” she said.
Looking to advance her career even further, Godsey went looking for another position outside of Lima. She was then hired as the Clark County Sanitary Engineer where she oversaw operation of two wastewater plants, one water treatment plant and seven water districts. She was there for 15 years until her husband accepted a position in Ottawa County, Ohio.
“He moved there, I stayed in Clark County and we saw each other on weekends,” she said. “After a particularly harsh winter when we didn’t see each other in person for several weekends, we decided a change was necessary.”
That’s when Godsey was hired as the Public Utilities Director for the City of Perrysburg in May of 2014.
“I had moved away from the Toledo area in 1981,” she said. “In 2014, I found the Southwyck Mall demolished, the old Sports Arena gone, O-I moved to Perrysburg, UT College of Engineering took over the old O-I Tech Center, Levis Commons was mostly built-out from a farm field, and the Mud Hens no longer played at the Lucas County Rec Center, and on and on,” she said.
Godsey cannot pinpoint the moment she started thinking about engineering as a career. She didn’t know any engineers but remembers looking at college catalogues and seeing information about schools of engineering. She was familiar with the coursework and had even taken the prerequisites in high school. Plus, her ACT and SAT scores were good.
“I had a vague desire to work for improved water quality; in childhood, I loved to ride my bicycle down to the creek about a half mile away,” she said. “I liked to poke a stick in the muck, look for tiny fish or crawdads and listen to the frogs. Looking back, that was the basis for my career choice and I’ve been very happy with that choice ever since.”
Godsey has a few memorable events in her career. She had only been with the City of Perrysburg for 11 weeks when the Toledo water crisis put northwest Ohio in the national spotlight. That event renewed efforts to negotiate new regional water contracts resulting in the formation of the Toledo Regional Water Commission in November 2019.
She also has memories of climbing in manholes during private sector work for a sewer study required by the Ohio EPA.
“In Lima, I recall at different times crawling through a 42-inch diameter sewer and a 72-inch sewer, both of which were in poor condition,” she said. “I remember rats swam by in the larger sewer. Fortunately, remote cameras do that type of work today.”
Godsey is looking forward to her retirement. She and her husband, Steven Lange, who works for the Lucas County Sanitary Engineer’s office, recently celebrated their 25th anniversary. She has three daughters (two are twins) from a previous marriage and is looking forward to visiting her grandchildren this fall.
“I want to ride my bicycle on weekdays, write an on-line cookbook, visit relatives, read books (starting with rereading some Malcolm Gladwell favorites), test run recipes for next year’s Wood County Fair, support UT Rocket Women’s basketball, and get more involved in the League of Women Voters,” she said. “And best of all, continue to kayak with my husband on summer weekends.”
Reflecting back on her career, Godsey considers herself fortunate.
“I’ve been enriched by all the people I’ve met, worked for, worked with, learned from, hired, and the colleagues who’ve passed away,” she said. “My career has been a central part of my life for close to 50 years but I am ready to slow down a bit and watch more sunsets.”
Godsey's last day is Thursday, September 15. Matt Choma, who served as deputy director, was appointed by City Council to take her place.